it’s like watching a train wreck

Rumor after rumor, decision after decision: it’s like watching a train wreck. The latest news? That Hillary Rodham Clinton may be Obama’s Secretary of State. For a candidate who wanted change, for a candidate who ran on a platform that was purported to be anti-war–at least against the occupation of Iraq–this further signals Obama’s desire for the status quo. Moreover, her consistent attempts to deceive the American public on her stance on the Iraq war is equally troubling:

Indeed, in Thursday night’s debate, Senator Clinton claims that she voted to authorize war against Iraq in October 2002 because “we needed to put inspectors in.” However, this was also a lie, since Saddam Hussein had by that time already agreed for a return of the weapons inspectors. Furthermore, Senator Clinton voted against the substitute Levin amendment, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Senator Clinton voted for the Republican-sponsored resolution to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing regardless of whether inspectors returned. Indeed, unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 invasion that Senator Clinton had voted to authorize.

This is part of a longstanding pattern of Senator Hillary Clinton misleading the American public about Iraq in order to justify her militaristic policies. It is important to remember that, back in October 2002, despite widespread and public skepticism expressed by arms control experts over the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had somehow re-armed itself, Senator Clinton was insisting that Iraq’s possession of biological and chemical weapons was “not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” She also claimed, despite the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely eliminated, that Iraq was “trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

Moreover, Clinton has proven herself to be someone who has contempt for international law:

If Senator Clinton believes the United States can unilaterally claim the right to invade Iraq because of that country’s violation of Security Council resolutions, other Council members could logically also claim the right to invade other states that are in material breach of UN Security Council resolutions, such as Israel, Morocco, Turkey, Armenia, Pakistan and India. Her insistence on the right of the United States to unilaterally invade foreign countries because of alleged violations of UN Security Council resolutions seriously undermines the principle of collective security and the authority of the United Nations and thereby opens the door to international anarchy.

International law is quite clear about when military force is allowed. In addition to the aforementioned case of UN Security Council authorization, the only other time the UN Charter allows a member state to use armed force is described in Article 51, which states that it is permissible for “individual or collective self-defense” against “armed attack…until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Since none of these criteria were met, the U.S. invasion was clearly a violation of the UN Charter, as acknowledged by the UN Secretary General and the majority of member states. Clinton’s support for the war, therefore, demonstrates her belief that the United States should not be bound by its international legal obligations.

My problems with Clinton are also related to other deceptive work, particularly as it is related to Palestine. Since becoming Senator of New York, she has worked closely with Itamar Marcus, an Israeli American who is now an illegal settler in Efrat, an illegal Israeli settlement on a hill overlooking Deheishe refugee camp in Beit Lahem, an illegal settlement that continues to steal land from the neighboring village of Al Khader. Marcus has taught Clinton some of the key lessons in Zionism, which have served her well in Congress. First and foremost is always invert the truth to its opposite. So her claims on in collusion with Marcus and his slanderous organization, Palestinian Media Watch, are troubling because: 1) the claims she makes about Palestinian textbooks are false; 2) if she were to make those same claims about Israeli textbooks they would be true. Here is Clinton speaking on the subject at a press conference with Marcus in 2007:

A more accurate analysis of the textbooks and Hillary’s statements comes from Bethlehem University Education professor Sami Adwan:

She depended mainly on reports produced by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), of which Itamar Marcus was the director. CMIP is a right-wing center that has offices in New York and Jerusalem and is well funded, though if you read the goals of the center one can easily be deceived that it is a peace-oriented center.

CMIP’s first report came out in 2000 which was based on analyzing the Jordanian and Egyptian school books that were used in Palestinian schools in West bank and Gaza Strip respectively since early 50s and were fully censored by Israeli Military Commanders in charge of Palestinian education since 1967. The Palestinian Authority by that time only published school books for grades one and six. Even so, CMIP’s baseless accusations and allegations were presented as if they are from the newly produced Palestinian school books. The first CMIP report was circulated all over the world causing serious problems for the Palestinian education system because many countries stopped funding the development of the Palestinians school books.

The report was criticized by many scholars like, Nathan Brown, IPICRI, Daniel Bar Tal, Nurit Peled El-Khanan and Ruth Firer and others. All disagreed with CMIP’s findings and found many mistakes in its translation, selective analysis, taking phrases out of context and drawing false conclusions.

Most of them concluded that Palestinian school books do not teach hate nor instigate violence, are free from stereotypes and praised them for being highly moderate, even though they were produced in extremely difficult situation-the Occupation. (See Akiva Eldar’s articles in Ha’aretz. )

Equally alarming have been reports about former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers as Treasury Secretary. Once again, so much for change:

Larry Summers, early front-runner to succeed Bush Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, was happy to be Enron’s eyes and ears at Treasury, according to a handwritten note to his pal Ken Lay you can find at OpenLeft.com. Summers famously remarked that third world countries were “underpolluted”. His solution to this “problem” is encouraging them to sell their share of “rights” to poison the planet’s oceans and air to wealthy western corporations through a system like the present futures and commodities exchanges. Both the outgoing Bush and the incoming Obama administrations are enthusiastic advocates of this “market-based” approach. So much for a Change We Can Breathe In.

Wild-eyed but unrealistic optimists insist that hacks like Summers and Emanuel are just the smartest guys around, and their policies are not Obama’s anyhow. But that fails the laugh test. There are plenty of smart political operators, and many equally brilliant economists who have called the mess right all along and would relish the chance to begin setting it right. Economists like Paul Krugman, Michael Hudson, or Paul Stiglitz, for instance. You don’t hire smart people for the new administration to do the opposite of what they built their careers doing. It defies common sense to expect anything else. Larry Summers will be looking out for his old friends and colleagues. Rahm Emanuel will be kneecapping advocates of single payer health care, opponents of the war, teachers, union members and anyone left of that rightward moving target they call “the center”.

You see, it is not change when the very economic crisis Obama purports to get us out of was created by those he wants around him on his economic team:

How bizarre it is to observe Obama playing the people’s crusader in the morning and colluding with his top economic advisers, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, in the afternoon. In February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, “The Committee to Save the World.” Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton, having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to safeguard “derivatives,” the exotic “ticking time bomb” financial instruments, from federal regulation. Less than a decade later, unregulated derivatives would expand – like the Mother of All Bubbles – to notional values 10 to 15 times greater than the world’s total economic output. The global order would be brought to its knees, in a financial conflagration that has just begun to show its full dimensions and destructive potential. (See New York Times, October 9, “Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy“)

So you might want to thank Obama’s main men on the economy, Rubin and Summers, for the current crisis. Be assured that this crew will deliver another catastrophe from their positions of influence, if Obama is elected.

Moreover, Summers was not only responsible for the financial mess we’re in, but he exported that mess to places like Mexico as well:

Summers, while serving as under secretary of the Treasury in 1995, engineered the destruction of Mexico’s economy by increasing interest rates to unmanageable levels—business and farm loans went from 11% to 56%, credit card rates from 7% to 61%, home loans from 5% to 75%, car loans from 7% to 91%. The result was massive human suffering and the forced migration of millions of economic refugees to the United States.

Although Wall Street banks profited handsomely, the impact of 1995 loan interest rate increases in Mexico was more than millions of people and businesses could handle. Thousands of farms and businesses, both large and small, went bankrupt. In 1995 alone over 12,000 of Mexico’s businesses filed for bankruptcy, and as economic activity came to a standstill and demand was cut, orders were canceled and plants operated at less than minimum levels. Idle capacity in many branches of the manufacturing sector increased to 70%. It became impossible for millions of workers to support their families by earning paychecks in their own country. Unable to earn enough to support their families, many of them migrated to the United States to find family wage work.

Finally, what do Hillary Clinton, Larry Summers, and Rahm Emanuel have in common? They are all Zionists to the core. While Zionism may not be related to the job in the Treasury (though with some $3 billion in aid going to the state of Israel every year, one may wish to argue this point), I think it is worth looking at what sort of role Summers played at Harvard. Judith Butler’s essay reveals some important key points in terms of how the Zionist police work to censor discussion at American universities by calling such discussion “anti-Semitism”:

When the president of Harvard University declared that to criticise Israel at this time and to call on universities to divest from Israel are ‘actions that are anti-semitic in their effect, if not their intent’, he introduced a distinction between effective and intentional anti-semitism that is controversial at best. The counter-charge has been that in making his statement, Summers has struck a blow against academic freedom, in effect, if not in intent. Although he insisted that he meant nothing censorious by his remarks, and that he is in favour of Israeli policy being ‘debated freely and civilly’, his words have had a chilling effect on political discourse. Among those actions which he called ‘effectively anti-semitic’ were European boycotts of Israel, anti-globalisation rallies at which criticisms of Israel were voiced, and fund-raising efforts for organisations of ‘questionable political provenance’. Of local concern to him, however, was a divestment petition drafted by MIT and Harvard faculty members who oppose Israel’s current occupation and its treatment of Palestinians. Summers asked why Israel was being ‘singled out . . . among all nations’ for a divestment campaign, suggesting that the singling out was evidence of anti-semitic intentions. And though he claimed that aspects of Israel’s ‘foreign and defence’ policy ‘can be and should be vigorously challenged’, it was unclear how such challenges could or would take place without being construed as anti-Israel, and why these policy issues, which include occupation, ought not to be vigorously challenged through a divestment campaign. It would seem that calling for divestment is something other than a legitimately ‘vigorous challenge’, but we are not given any criteria by which to adjudicate between vigorous challenges that should be articulated, and those which carry the ‘effective’ force of anti-semitism.

Summers is right to voice concern about rising anti-semitism, and every progressive person ought to challenge anti-semitism vigorously wherever it occurs. It seems, though, that historically we have now reached a position in which Jews cannot legitimately be understood always and only as presumptive victims. Sometimes we surely are, but sometimes we surely are not. No political ethics can start from the assumption that Jews monopolise the position of victim. ‘Victim’ is a quickly transposable term: it can shift from minute to minute, from the Jew killed by suicide bombers on a bus to the Palestinian child killed by Israeli gunfire. The public sphere needs to be one in which both kinds of violence are challenged insistently and in the name of justice.

If we think that to criticise Israeli violence, or to call for economic pressure to be put on the Israeli state to change its policies, is to be ‘effectively anti-semitic’, we will fail to voice our opposition for fear of being named as part of an anti-semitic enterprise. No label could be worse for a Jew, who knows that, ethically and politically, the position with which it would be unbearable to identify is that of the anti-semite. The ethical framework within which most progressive Jews operate takes the form of the following question: will we be silent (and thereby collaborate with illegitimately violent power), or will we make our voices heard (and be counted among those who did what they could to stop that violence), even if speaking poses a risk? The current Jewish critique of Israel is often portrayed as insensitive to Jewish suffering, past as well as present, yet its ethic is based on the experience of suffering, in order that suffering might stop.

Summers uses the ‘anti-semitic’ charge to quell public criticism of Israel, even as he explicitly distances himself from the overt operations of censorship. He writes, for instance, that ‘the only antidote to dangerous ideas is strong alternatives vigorously advocated.’ But how does one vigorously advocate the idea that the Israeli occupation is brutal and wrong, and Palestinian self-determination a necessary good, if the voicing of those views calls down the charge of anti-semitism?

One of the issues Butler raises, which is interesting, given that she wrote this essay five years ago, is the subject of divestment from the Zionist state, which thankfully is catching on. In a little-known about ballot initiative in that same city where Harvard is located and the one adjacent to it, was Question 4 led by the Somerville Divestment Project.

62 % of people voting in Somerville and 73 % of people voting in Cambridge casts YES votes on Question 4. Cambridge, MA is the home of leading colleges MIT and Harvard.

Here are the unofficial results for in each state representative district which represents a large fraction of the population of each city.

Unofficial results:
Somerville, MA: 62% of Voters for YES
YES 9100 NO: 5542

Cambridge, MA: 73 % of Voters for YES
YES 9637 NO: 3650

These results come after the pro-apartheid side attempted legal maneuvers to block the question from being on the ballot (failing in September), and over the opposition of mayor, all local elected officials in Somerville and a main newspaper in Somerville. The mayor of Somerville, two years ago, went on a trip to Israel sponsored by the pro-apartheid government of Israel.

In 2006, 45% of Somerville voters supported the Palestinian peoples’ Right of Return – a fundamental human right, despite the opposition from the pro-apartheid governor, congressman and mayor… all of whom opposed the fundamental human right of return.

For details on this resolution you may read their statement on the language on the ballot and what it means as well as what its limitations are.

One final word: I posted a bit of Vijay Prashad’s article on Sonal Shah the other day and there were a number of people defending her. First, my main reason for posting that piece was because I find it disturbing that someone from Goldman Sachs is advising Obama. But there were obviously other issues related to her and since Prashad himself has posted a follow up, I thought I’d quote some of it here as well for people to see additional arguments he makes:

The VHP says Ms. Shah left the organization in 2001. Three events from 2004 bear mention:

(1) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh young conference. The HSS is the U. S. branch of the RSS. The University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum describes the RSS as “possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy.” The RSS “guru” (teacher) M. S. Golwalkar wrote glowingly about Nazi “race pride,” and called it a “good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

(2) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at an Ekal Vidyalaya conference in Florida. The Ekal Vidyalaya’s are schools set up in tribal areas. The RSS’s Chief of Service work, Premchand Goel, said that the RSS and the VHP run “thousands of Ekal Vidyalayas.” One Ekal Vidyalaya teacher, Mohan Lal, told Frontline reporter, T. K. Rajalakshmi, “We go for the RSS shakha meetings regularly. The teachers are selected only if they subscribe to the RSS way of thought.”

(3) On her behalf, her brother Anand Shah received an award from the Gujarat government in the presence of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. When Mr. Modi became Chief Minister of the State in 2001 was the first RSS pracharak (volunteer) to be in the position. The RSS celebrated its victory. Human Rights Watch’s 2002 report calls attention to the way the RSS and Mr. Modi have used Gujarat as “Hindutva’s laboratory,” stacking the higher administration with RSS-VHP cadre. No Muslim police officer has a field posting. As Frontline reporter Praveen Swami wrote at the time, “Chief Minister Narendra Modi has become something of a hero for many Hindus because he presided over the pogrom.”

At none of these events did Ms. Shah or her brother raise their voices for the broken hearts and bodies, the survivors and victims of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. By 2004, even mainstream human rights organizations and media outlets had recognized that the Gujarat riots were state-engineered, and that their author was Narendra Modi. In 2005, the U. S. government refused to allow Mr. Modi a visa on these grounds. And yet, Ms. Shah received an award given by Mr. Modi. The novelist Amitav Ghosh refused to be considered for the Commonwealth Prize in 2001 because it commemorated imperialism. That is a sign of sound moral judgment. To have taken an award from a man who conducted a pogrom is a sign of moral turpitude.

8 thoughts on “it’s like watching a train wreck

  1. you’re welcome. i think the language in their ballot initiative is weak. but in terms of their divestment project they are very strong and they’ve made a lot of progress.

  2. It really is a total train wreck. How people bought into this whole ridiculous concept of “change” I will never understand.

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